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SunLife's latest report reveals how to spend it well in later life

17th March 2023

3 min read

SunLife’s new Life Well Spent report has found the best ways to use your money when you’re over 50 for the happiest life. And it’s not buying a flash new car, spending it on plastic surgery or putting it all on red, but:

  • longer holidays abroad
  • shorter holidays here in the UK
  • home extensions, garden improvements, or new kitchens
  • enjoying nature and the outdoors, especially in the sunshine
  • paying off outstanding debt
  • giving cash gifts to family, especially early inheritance or money towards a holiday

Holidays increase happiness for three-quarters of people over 50

In the UK, the happiest take shorter breaks (7 days versus average of 9 days) but do spend £48 more overall. The findings suggest that holidays abroad are better for long-term happiness, whereas staycations are a better short-term boost.

Most popular dream destinations include the USA, Australia, the Caribbean and... Cornwall!

9 in 10 of those who've had a house extension, garden landscaping or a new kitchen say it's improved their happiness

More than a quarter of people over 50 have undertaken garden landscaping, at an average cost of £1,997. And for good reason – when asked freely what three things make them happiest in life, 9% named sunshine and 5% their garden as sources of joy.

Across all home and garden renovations, 89% felt they were worth the money, and 7% even felt they should have spent more on higher quality materials.

Giving early inheritance to see loved ones enjoy the money improved happiness for 90% of those who did so

When it comes to leaving an inheritance, most would like to do so, but not if it means cutting back on their own enjoyment of retirement.

The majority would rather spend their money enjoying their retirement, or offer early inheritance to see their loved ones benefit from the money while they are still around.

74% are happier after taking out equity release

For those without the savings or disposable income to spend on big purchases in later life, equity release is an increasingly popular way to unlock these opportunities. Most people who take out equity release spend the money on the purchases featured in this study, and 74% saw their overall happiness improve as a result (22% reported no change in overall happiness).

However, the equity release market still has some way to go to educate over 50s on the features of modern-day offerings. Only 6% of respondents knew all the facts about equity release, and the free responses show misconceptions are still rife among consumers.

42% of those with debts don't think paying it off would make them happier...

…but 85% of those who have paid off their debts are happier because of it.

The happiest people over 50 are 4% more likely to have paid off their mortgage and 9% more likely to have no outstanding debts.

Of the 15% of people over 50 with outstanding mortgages, the average amount still owed is £64,786.

SunLife CEO Mark Screeton said:

“At a time when people are making sure every penny counts, it’s more important than ever to know that big purchases are going to be worth the spend.

“Our latest report, Life Well Spent, offers a fascinating insight into how over 50s are investing in their happiness in later life. It’s always daunting to commit to big spends, especially for retirees no longer receiving a full income. So, I hope our findings can be useful for people deciding whether or not to take the plunge. And, with the protections and product features of many modern equity release offerings, more and more people can make these dreams a reality for themselves.”

Read the full Life Well Spent report here

About SunLife

SunLife has been around since 1810, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in the UK. It offers products such as over 50s life insurance and equity release.

SunLife is a part of Phoenix Group( opens in a new tab), the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business.

SunLife was the first company in the UK to offer life assurance without a medical, and has for many years been the UK’s most popular over 50s life insurance provider (Source: Association of British Insurers). It is also author of one of the longest-running and most highly-regarded reports into funeral costs – the Cost of Dying report.

SunLife also works with leading finance journalists and industry experts to offer everyone over 50 free tools and guides to help with managing their money, planning a funeral and making the most of life after 50.

The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.